By Mallory Rosten, Communications Assistant
If you wander behind West Village, the dining hall that doubles as a community center on West campus, you’ll find twin residence halls Folk and Caldwell. They look the same as other dorms on quiet West campus, but looks can be deceiving.
Inside lives a buzzing community of young scientists and mathematicians, bonded together by curiosity and chemistry labs. In the basement, students would excitedly work together to solve a problem on the white board walls, late at night before a test. In the lounges, students might vigorously debate whether a hot dog is a sandwich, citing scientific sources and data.
These students are part of the College of Sciences’ Living Learning Community, or LLC. Formerly two separate LLCs, SHaRP (Science Health and Related Professions) and SMaRT (Science and Math Research Training), the program is now known as Explore. The staff found that the two LLCS often overlapped: pre-health students were interested in research, research students were interested in pre-health, and the students spent so much time together that there was no need for division.
By housing science and math majors together in their first year of college, Explore hopes to foster a community and create an identity around science and mathematics.
Jennifer Leavey, Explore’s faculty director, was a Tech undergrad herself. “I had no idea there even was a College of Sciences,” she says. “For such a long time the campus was so dominated by engineers, there wasn’t much of an identity for science and math majors.” Explore, she says, is for “the kids who are curious, the kids who like to wear NASA T-shirts.”
Explore hosts 280 students who want more from dorm life than the usual first-year experience. By joining Explore, science- and math-oriented students can live together, take classes together, and distract themselves from their studies together. It’s also a place of discovery where students can find the field that fits them best, which is why the new name is particularly apt.
“To think that a 16- or 17-year-old is going to stick with the major they chose when they applied is unrealistic and a little stifling,” says Emma Blandford, Explore’s assistant director. “To see them step back a little bit and see the other things out there and explore other opportunities is a breath of fresh air.”
A Place of Discovery
When Hudson Moss began his freshman year, he was sure that he wanted to major in biochemistry. But when Moss watched Kim Cobb give a talk on her 2016 expedition to Holiday Island, he knew immediately that he wanted to work with her.
Cobb is a professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. “It was really cool, the way that she talked about paleoclimate and how we can approach climate changes as a community and as a country,” Moss says. His chance came when he had to interview a professor for his SMaRT GT 1000 class. He knew exactly whom to choose.
“I managed to slip in that I wanted to work for her at some point,” Moss says, and that first meeting ignited a research path that continues today. He started attending Cobb’s lab meetings. By the end of his second semester, Moss had started working in Cobb’s lab and officially switched his major to Earth and atmospheric sciences. He still works there today and is on his way to becoming the first author of a study mapping the 19th-century climate of the equatorial Pacific.
“That initial bump that SMaRT gave me to go interview a professor, to get out there and talk to faculty – that was huge,” Moss says. It forced him to be comfortable talking to an expert like Cobb. Now, he says, he can strike a conversation with any faculty member.
Living, Learning, and Thriving
In addition to offering LLC-specific first-year seminar classes for their students, the LLC reserves chemistry labs and even English sections so that their students are connected with the community throughout the day.
When they come home from class, the students organize stress relief activities, like cookie and milk breaks and Halloween parties. Recently, 30 students went to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to learn about the refugee crisis through the lens of public health.
At the start of every school year, the students go on a retreat where they climb ropes, solve escape rooms, and attend panels for advice about undergraduate research.
“They can go out and go to class and do work and they can come home – it’s their own little oasis,” Blandford says, “My hope is that the community they’re developing here is not isolating them from the rest of Tech, but helping them to feel supported to go out and try new things.”
Because Moss is now a second-year student, he is no longer officially part of the LLC, but he still goes back to give talks to the students, helping them figure out their own paths.
Alumni can also work as student assistants in the program, helping to coordinate activities, and as team leaders.
The biggest indicator of the program’s success, Blandford says, is the fact that 50% of students signed up to continue living with “smarties and sharpies” in the Eighth Street apartments across the street from Folk and Caldwell.
“They liked each other enough that they wanted to stay in this community again for another year,” Blandford says. She sees this preference as a sign that these students truly feel supported by one another.
All Together Now
“I didn’t expect everyone to come together as quickly as they did,” Bryan Gomez, a biochemistry and neuroscience major in what was formerly SHaRP, admits. “The first couple weeks, everyone was still getting to know each other, but once classes hit the ground and midterm week hit, it was like we’re all in this together.”
Gomez is still in his first year, but he started as a summer freshman. Now he works as a marketing student assistant for Explore.
He credits the LLC for the ease of his transition to college life. “They provide resources to get help when I’ve needed it and when everyone else has needed it,” he says.
Leavey wishes Explore were around when she was a Tech undergrad. “My son wants to be in the program when he goes to college,” Leavey says, laughing.
Georgia Tech scientists with expertise in microbial chemical ecology, evolution, and quantitative modeling have formed the Center for Microbial Dynamics and Infection. The center will investigate the mechanisms and consequences of microbial community dynamics in the environment and during infection. Researchers will study how microbe-microbe and microbe-host interactions are shaped by the environment and how they affect human health and ecosystem services.
“Georgia Tech has one of the nation’s strongest collection of faculty interested in understanding how microbial communities assemble and function,” says the center’s director, Marvin Whiteley, a professor in the School of Biological Sciences. “We will focus on acute societal problems, including antibiotic resistance, the onset of infection and disease, and altered biogeochemical cycles and environmental function under global change.”
Many of the most widespread chronic health problems in the U.S. – including allergies, asthma, and obesity – have been linked to an imbalance in the body’s native microbial flora. How these imbalances affect health remain largely unknown and may be the result of complex interactions between microbes. The center aims to understand these interactions.
The growing recognition that microbial communities – or microbiomes – play key roles in human health has given rise to many microbiome research centers in the U.S. “None has a goal of manipulating communities to control functional outcomes,” says Frank Stewart, the center’s associate director and an associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences.
Whiteley and Stewart are members of the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience.
“Our goal is to optimize the balance of interacting species to bring about positive ecological outcomes,” Stewart says. Examples of functional outcomes are breakdown of potentially harmful waste products in natural and engineered ecosystems and production of microbial chemical cocktails that serve as an animal’s defense against disease-causing bacteria.
The center hopes to be a focal point for microbial sciences in Atlanta through collaborations with academic institutions such as Emory University, federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and private institutions such as the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Center members already are collaborating with other researchers in the Atlanta area. For example, Stewart’s team has partnered with Georgia Aquarium to examine microbe-fish-health relationships. Whiteley is associate director of the Emory-Children’s Center for Cystic Fibrosis and Airways Disease Research.
The immediate goals are “to synergize microbial sciences on campus and provide a focal point for outreach to the Atlanta community,” Whiteley says. “Then we will leverage this expertise to develop a comprehensive framework for addressing microbe-driven problems facing humanity.”
The center accentuates the “tremendous momentum for microbial sciences at Georgia Tech,” Whiteley says. “The next few years will be a lot of fun.”
For More Information Contact
A. Maureen Rouhi, Ph.D.
Director of Communications
College of Sciences
Cylie Williams , PhD
School of Primary and Allied Health Care, Monash University
Peninsula Health, Allied Health, Australia
This presentation will provide the latest research on the diagnosis and assessment of treatment outcomes for idiopathic toe walking (ITW). It will also summarise the evidence supporting different treatments and how different health professionals use this evidence in their treatment pathways. Lastly, it will tell stories from parents of children with ITW in the USA and Australia about their treatment pathways and what they really want health professionals to know about about this challenging diagnosis.
Physiology Brownbag Seminars
The Physiology Group in the School of Biological Sciences hosts Brownbag Lunchtime Seminars twice a month on Wednesdays at noon in room 1253 of the Applied Physiology Building located at 555 14th Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30318. You are welcome to bring a lunch and join us as we ruminate with us on topics in Physiology! A full listing of seminars can be found at http://pwp.gatech.edu/bmmc/physiology-brownbag-seminars-spring-2019/.
As part of Georgia Tech’s year-long celebration of 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (#IYPT2019GT), the College of Sciences and the College of Design’s School of Music have partnered to present a performance of original music inspired by the periodic table.
Avneesh Sarwate, a student in the Masters of Science in Music Technology program, has composed music for #IYPT2019GT to be played by the School of Music’s Laptop Orchestra. The orchestra comprises first-year music technology majors enrolled in MUSI 2015 Laptop Orchestra, a required music technology course. They will play the original composition and other repertory pieces using electronic devices, mostly laptop computers and mobile phones.
Closest public parking is Visitors Area 4, Ferst Street and Atlantic Drive, http://pts.gatech.edu/visitors#l3.
A Frontiers in Science Lecture to celebrate 2019, the International Year of the Periodic Table
The history of silicon is usually told as a history of electronic materials and devices. However, it is better told as a history of manufacturing innovation. This talk will take a journey through the manufacturing innovations that transformed silicon from its humble beginnings as the most abundant metal in Earth’s crust to the enabler of the computer chips that underpin the modern economy.
The journey begins with the extraction of silicon from sand and its processing into the most compositionally pure and structurally perfect human-made material. It continues through the mid-20th century breakthroughs that allowed fabrication and interconnection of high-quality electronic devices to form integrated circuits.
It is from this perspective that we can most easily appreciate silicon’s impact on modern society and why it is finding increasing utility in technology areas as diverse as renewable energy, environmental sensing, and augmented reality. It is also from this perspective that we can understand silicon’s limitations and begin to see what innovations might be necessary to enable silicon’s next act.
About the Speaker
Michael A. Filler is an associate professor and the Traylor Faculty Fellow in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Georgia Tech. His research program lies at the intersection of chemical engineering and materials science, focusing on the synthesis, understanding, and deployment of nanoscale materials for applications in electronics, photonics, and energy conversion.
He is co-director of the Community for Research on Active Surfaces and Interfaces (CRĀSI) and the host of Nanovation, a bimonthly podcast about the intersection of nanoscience, technology, manufacturing, and society.
Filler has received numerous awards for his research and teaching, including the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, Georgia Tech Sigma Xi Young Faculty Award, and the CETL/BP Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence Award. He also has been recognized as a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation Environmental Chemistry Mentor.
About Frontiers in Science Lectures
Lectures in this series are intended to inform, engage, and inspire students, faculty, staff, and the public on developments, breakthroughs, and topics of general interest in the sciences and mathematics. Lecturers tailor their talks for nonexpert audiences.
About the Periodic Table Frontiers in Science Lecture Series
Throughout 2019, the College of Sciences will bring prominent researchers from Georgia Tech and beyond to expound on little-discussed aspects of chemical elements:
- Feb. 6, James Sowell, How the Universe Made the Elements in the Periodic Table
March 5, Michael Filler, Celebrating Silicon: Its Success, Hidden History, and Next Act
- April 2, John Baez, University of California, Riverside, Mathematical Mysteries of the Periodic Table
- April 18, Sam Kean, Author, The Periodic Table: A Treasure Trove of Passion, Adventure, Betrayal, and Obsession
- Sept. 12, Monica Halka, The Elusive End of the Periodic Table: Why Chase It?
- October, Taka Ito, Turning Sour, Bloated, and Out of Breath: Ocean Chemistry under Global Warming (This will take place on the Thursday of Homecoming Week 2019)
- Nov. 12, Margaret Kosal, The Geopolitics of Rare and Not-So-Rare Elements
Closest public parking for the March 5 lecture is Visitors Area 4, Ferst Street and Atlantic Drive, http://pts.gatech.edu/visitors#l3
Refreshments served after every lecture
Breck A. Duerkop, Ph.D.
Department of Immunology & Microbiology
University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus
My lab studies the interface between bacteriophages and other mobile DNA elements in Gram-positive enterococci. This seminar will explore how the development of bacteriophage resistance in Enterococcus faecalis influences antibiotic resistance and intestinal colonization. In addition, I will discuss how E. faecalis communities use CRISPR/Cas as a native barrier to conjugative plasmid acquisition in the intestine.
Host: Marvin Whiteley
Michelle Antoine, Ph.D.
Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute
University of California, Berkeley
Jan 13, 2019
The AJC asked biology major Collin Spencer to write about mental health at Georgia Tech. In his article, he explains the status of mental health at Georgia Tech and why it continues to worsen. Yet he also highlights efforts underway to combat the problem and provide support to students struggling with depression, anxiety, and extreme stress.
Collin manages the Intercollegiate Mental Health Conference for Georgia Tech and oversees the allocation of a million-dollar fund for mental health as chair of the Joint Allocations Committee. He intends to pursue further graduate studies in public policy.
Homa Ghalei, Ph.D.
Department of Biochemistry
Emory University School of Medicine
Non-coding (nc)RNAs account for the majority of the transcriptional output. Yet, their precise function and mode of regulation remain largely unclear. The interaction of ncRNAs with proteins for the formation of ribonucleoproteins (RNPs) dictates the spatial and temporal action of many of the cellular machines and is critically important for the regulation of gene expression. The complex assembly of small nucleolar (sno)RNPs for methylation and processing of the ribosomal RNA is an example of such regulated biogenesis and is essential in all eukaryotes from yeast to man. Although the major interacting partners of snoRNAs have been well-known for some time, the regulatory mechanisms that control the biogenesis and turnover of these important RNAs, which likely underlie their link to cancer, are not understood. This constitutes a critical gap in our current understanding of the function of snoRNAs and their involvement in diseases, which we aim to fill. Yeast genetics allows us to identify key interaction partners and essential steps in biogenesis and turnover of snoRNPs. Biochemical assays and enzyme kinetics enable us to in vitro reconstitute and validate our in vivo findings. Structural techniques allow us to uncover the molecular mechanism of the assembly of snoRNAs with their key protein partners. Together, our projects combine a multifaceted approach to provide a molecular understanding of how snoRNPs are regulated in the cell. Characterizing these regulatory mechanisms will reveal novel paradigms of RNA control in the cell that may be also used for controlling the level of other disease-related cellular ncRNAs.
Host: Francesca Storici, Ph.D.
Prof. Gianluca Tell
Head of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology and DNA repair
Deputy of Research of the Department of Medicine
Department of Medicine
University of Udine
The Base Excision Repair (BER) pathway, initially studied as a mere DNA repair pathway, has been later found to be implicated in the expression of cancer related genes in human. For several years, this intricate involvement in apparently different processes represented a mystery, which we now are starting to unveil. The BER handles simple alkylation and oxidative lesions arising from both endogenous and exogenous sources, including cancer therapy agents. Surprisingly, BER pathway involvement in transcriptional regulation, immunoglobulin variability and switch recombination, RNA metabolism and nucleolar function is astonishingly consolidating. An emerging evidence in tumor biology is that RNA processing pathways participate in DNA Damage Response (DDR) and that defects in these regulatory connections are associated with genomic instability of cancers. In fact, many BER proteins are associated with those involved in RNA metabolism, ncRNA processing and transcriptional regulation, including within the nucleolus, proving a substantial role of the interactome network in determining their non-canonical functions in tumor cells. Mammalian apurinic/apyrimidinic endonuclease 1 (APE1) is a key DNA repair enzyme in canonical BER involved in genome stability but also in the non-canonical expression of genes involved in oxidative stress responses, tumor progression and chemoresistance. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying APE1’s role in these processes are still unclear. Recent findings from our Lab point to a novel role of APE1 in RNA metabolism. Through the characterization of the interactomes of APE1 with RNA and other proteins, we demonstrate a role for APE1 in pri-miRNA processing and stability via association with the DROSHA processing complex during genotoxic stress. We also showed that endonuclease activity of APE1 is required for the processing of miR-221/222 in regulation expression of the tumor suppressor PTEN. Analysis of a cohort of different cancers supports the relevance of our findings for tumor biology. We also showed that APE1 participates in RNA- and protein-interactomes involved in cancer development, thus indicating an unsuspected post-transcriptional effect on cancer genes.
Maybe these new insights of BER enzymes, along with their emerging function in RNA-decay, may explain BER essential role in tumor development and chemoresistance and may explain the long-time mystery. Although recent works have provided tremendous amount of data in this field, there are still lot of open questions.
Host: Francesca Storici, Ph.D.